Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, has strayed from diplomacy, calling COP 25 "a political failure and a lost opportunity for the world's political leaders". Meanwhile, Patricia Espinosa, the executive secretary of the UNFCCC (which coordinated the COP for the UN), tried to salvage what could be saved while, at the same time, reminding us that 114 countries have promised to submit their updated action plans. Hence the appointment of the COP 26 in Glasgow, which shows promising commitment to finding a large prior consensus among the Parties, in the hope of avoiding a repetition of the COP 25.
Unfortunately, as early as last year we were being overly optimistic on our commentary on COP 24. The spectacle of the Polish President, who is also Minister of the Environment, leaping boldly onto the speaker’s rostrum suggested that he had found the courage to go the extra mile. This was both admirable and valuable given that he represents a country with one of the closest ties to the fossil fuel market. Yet this did obscure the fact that, at Katowice, he had already agreed to a Final Declaration, which provided a sort of reasoned summary of things to be done to implement Paris 2015. While this was certainly useful for taking stock of the situation, it was perhaps more suitable for a sherpa summit than for a political assembly. He did this in order to avoid a formal failure of the conference, which was imminent, not only because of the absence of Trump, but also due to the diplomatic games played by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Russia, as well as the absence of Macron (who had cancelled his appearance in view of this impending disaster).
Moreover, just after COP 24, Jair Bolsonaro, the then newly elected president of Brazil, withdrew his earlier pledge to organise COP 25; Chile, which then offered to replace its South American neighbour, certainly did not expect to find itself in the political and social chaos, which led to COP 25 taking place in Madrid last December under a Chilean presidency.
In short, COP 25 had delivered a collection of guidelines for the measures, which were signed - and ratified - at Paris by Cop 19 (a kind of rulebook of approximately 100 pages), and had recalled the due dates of some actions. If these had been respected, COP 25 would have been contentious but still manageable (not least because the Paris Agreement, and its subsequent versions, foresee possible economic sanctions).
Unfortunately, the predictions of good would turn out to be false and concrete actions non-existent: the sticking point cited, and usefully detailed at Katowice, of the pledged reductions of CO2 - the so called INDC - was not dealt with. The ambiguity of the ultra-diplomatic language used to gain acceptance of the IPCC 2018 report allowed climate-sceptic countries to keep this key point of the discussion open throughout 2019. Relations between the responsible governments, NGOs and global and regional environmental groups have deteriorated, not least because the NGOs insist on including in the debate the subject of the influence of climate change on human rights, food security and gender equality, engaging government policy not only in its environmental and industrial aspects.
What we also know is that a stable or rising GDP is not always compatible with human or civil rights. Most importantly, COP 24 did not go beyond generalities concerning the issue of an international market for CO2 emissions and left the difficult question of the Adaptation Fund, estimated at 128 million dollars, unresolved.